Revisiting The Question– Is There Anything Else I Can Help You With?

DLAB-QuestionsIn a post I wrote more than a year ago, I revealed my passion for the question “Is there anything else I can help you with?” at the end of support calls.  For a long time I required our customer service representatives to ask this question and would mark them down if they failed to do so.  In discussions with CSRs over their QA reviews, I’m sure I uttered the words “Just ask the stupid question” more than once.

After many such discussions, I have softened my stance.  Since that original post, a couple comments from readers have caused me to rethink a few things about the importance of asking the question.  Here are a few of my thoughts:

Extending The Call Unncessarily

It’s a bad idea to annoy the customer with this silly question, because usually you have already been on the phone a long time solving your problem. ~Comment from Larry

The point of asking “is there anything else I can help you with” is to ensure that we never rush the customer off the phone.  We want to make sure all of their issues have been addressed and even detect issues they weren’t calling about.  On the flip side, asking the question merely because it’s required only extends the call and wastes time.

What Are The Alternatives

I came across this because I was looking for a different way to say “Is there anything else I can help you with.” …I work for a call center and my sup doesn’t want me saying that anymore. He says it’s been used too much and nobody really hears it anymore. Especially our QA. Any ideas on a better way to close a call?  ~Comment from Joann

This comment is very interesting to me.  If your call center has this question engrained in quality assurance, and asking it is tied to a score, which is tied to a review– perhaps it’s time to rethink.  This supervisor apparently cares more about the intent rather than the form, which is terrific.  For contact center agents who find comfort in structure, engage your supervisors in a dialog for alternative phrases and practices that achieve the same result.

Training The Right Things

It…comes across as terribly rehearsed and machine like. ~Comment from Sean

Ultimately, I believe that if we hire excellent communicators in our contact centers, who are adept at making connections with customers, it really doesn’t matter if they ask the question at the end of their support calls.  They will be so aligned with the spoken and potential needs of the customer that they will only end calls when they are confident that those needs have been met.

Perhaps it’s time to spend less time training people to read scripts and more time training them to connect with customers in such a way that they recognize and address their individual needs.  This adds a new challenge to training and quality assurance but your customers and customer service representatives will thank you for it.

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Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Experience at FCR, the premiere provider of outsourced call center and business process solutions. He has more than 17 years of experience as a customer service and experience professional. He is co-founder of the Customer Service Life blog and a regular contributor. Jeremy has been recognized many times for his thought leadership. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.

17 comments

  • The current closer that I’m using “have I resolved the reason for your call”. I’m a small cog in a big wheel now, but the QA group seems to like this method of settling for the call.

    • Thanks for commenting, Peter! That’s definitely a good alternative. I know at times, I would ask the question hoping the customer was done. I have to check myself and work to be happy to answer the additional questions/issues the customer might bring up.

  • As callers, we hear that question so often that it has lost almost all meaning. Worse yet, some companies use this as an opportunity to upsell, so when I hear it, I start to cringe, waiting to be “sold” on some added feature or new product. Invariably, I am in a rush (so the question is annoying) or I am not looking to be upsold (so the question is annoying) or it just doesn’t sound genuine (so the question is annoying).

    However, a few times in recent years, I have been taken aback by a genuine question… the representative said: “Is there anything else I can help you with? I have the time.” I think it stuck out because it was “different”, but also because it sounded unscripted — the representative was literally telling me they had nothing more important to do than help me. On those occasions, I never had anything else I needed help with, but those interactions still stick out in my mind. Four words added to the end of the scripted droning made the difference between a cringe and a positive, memorable interaction.

    Representatives need to be empowered to “wrap up” their calls in constantly varied ways — ways that are real and genuine. There is likely not a one-size-fits-all “best” solution; perhaps we should give reps the freedom to tune this question to each individual caller, and actively encourage reps to stay on the line and spend extra time when that will improve the customer experience.

    • “I have the time.” That’s a wonderful addition to the script, Brian. As I think about those four words I find it hard to say then in a scripted fashion to a customer. It all of a sudden shifts the focus away from “Is there anything else I can help you with…please say no so we can end this call.”

  • This article raises a very interesting topic. I agree a lot with what Jeremy describe here. I have the personal experience to be long time on the phone with customer service assistant and at the end of the call most of the times it is pretty clear the topic was solved, but even that the assistant asked me if there is anything else he can help me – it sounds fake, like a machine, and it is totally disconnected and out-of-scope of the conversation – most of the cases jeopardize the good engagement established before. I liked the Peter’s suggestion because it is more linked with the conversation. If the topic is solved, it is more natural to ask the opinion about how the problem was solved or how the person rate the way the problem was solved.

  • Hey Jeremy,
    I came across your site through the all wonderful google after being bothered with this question enough times.

    I find that this question comes at a point when the customer calls in for a problem and knows exactly what they are looking for. There is no space for asking anything else. Most of the times the customer is frustrated due to the service or perhaps unsatisfied with the outcome of the product.

    “is there anything else i can help you with?” sounds to me like a hook to enroll customers into MORE products/services (ie. marketing – ie. “would you like to know about any more of our products/services?”).

    My question is why would you market when you are receiving a complaint? It is counter intuitive and makes the customer leave in a hurry.

    Though, I would love to hear your experience of what customers said after being asked this question if anything besides “no thanks!”.

  • I work in a call center where we have recently been instructed to say “If there is nothing else I can assist you with, I would like to thank you for calling.” This to me sounds even more scripted and even dismissive. It is as if we are trying to rush the customer out the door. It may occasionally be a useful tool for the customer who just wants to chat and is not picking up on more subtle clues, but as a universal closing it is impolite and awkward.

    • Hey Donald, I agree that this sounds very dismissive. Are you required to stick to a certain talk time in your call center? I could see companies that want you to stick to a certain talk time to put this requirement on you. Let me know.

      • We are “encouraged” to keep calls to an average of 4 minutes while at the same time we are told to be sure to resolve the customer’s problem to prevent call-backs. These two directives are contradictory, and fortunately our management is aware of this and takes everything into account during performance reviews. I am happy to report, however, that due to a general revolt among call center reps the new closing has been dropped, and as of now we are not even required to ask the question “Is there anything else I can help you with?” if the context makes clear that the customer is finished.

  • I often inject a little humor after a representative asks “Is there anything else I can help you with?”; I sometimes reply, “I’d like a large pepperoni pizza…” Or if they ask “Do you have any other questions?”, I may ask, “Why is this something instead of nothing?”. If one of those representative questions actually leads to another question by myself and another lengthy discussion, they will inevitably repeat the question after that, at which point I say something like “Are you sure you want to ask me that again?”

    • Correction to typo in my last comment: part of sentence should read: “…I may ask, ‘Why is there something instead of nothing'”.

    • Thanks for your comment, Trevor! Sometimes it’s good to test them out to make sure they aren’t robots. I’d be curious to know how many roll with the conversation and how many freeze up and don’t know how to respond.

      • I thought by clicking from the E-mail that my post would reply directly to your comment, but it posted separately, so I’m posting it again under your reply:

        Regarding the pepperoni pizza, most of them laugh or say I’d like that too, or something similar. About the why is there something instead of nothing question, they usually ponder it for a second or two, and offer some simplistic statement or don’t know; the other day a female Comcast representative in Jamaica said “You’re expanding my mind”, which I thought was the best response I’ve gotten, as it show she understood the nature of the question.

        • That’s awesome. I’m so slow that if you pulled that on me, I’d totally freeze 🙂 That being said, having a little fun with a customer definitely makes the day better for all parties involved so keep it up!

          • Grammar correction (actually a dictation correction): sentence in my last e-mail should be “…as it *showed* she understood…”

            I try to keep the humor in there, or sometimes engage in personal talk, that is, if they are from Jamaica, I mention I visited for a week many decades ago, or for the Philippines, I discuss female Filipino singers, and hope they don’t get in trouble for spending too much time on extraneous issues. Of course, occasionally I am simply fed up and irate, as I have been recently with the nation’s largest cable provider because of reductions they have made to the resolution of most of their programming, except the local broadcasts, and on-demand, without telling anyone, basically hiding it for most people because their box automatically up-converts it again, but they’ve actually reduced resolution by 45% resolution for most channels. In fact I have talked talk to over a dozen of their employees, including in technical support, and no one has known of the systemwide change, although there’s a lot online if you Google it–(the nation’s largest cable provider) converts 1080 channels to 720). Most recently there are problems with service in my area, one issue which predates the issues with Hurricane Irma, although it’s gotten worse (audio dropouts), but they can’t fix it (if they even can, as it’s been a long time complaint, I see on their forums, over the years, but it only started recently with me couple months ago) until they clear whatever is happening now, which seem to be service problems far exceeding that of any other utility in my area.

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